The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

June 26, 2016

Boot or Sandal? How Leaders Spend Their Time

If you spend all your time getting stuff done, you’re limiting your potential as a leader. To cultivate the influence leaders need, you must take time to think – to plan, to reflect, to research, to innovate, to build relationships. To be a leader, you have to – as Jim says – take off the work boots and put on the sandals.

View Transcript

Speaker 1: It’s a Northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. Now, a show for anyone who is or has a boss. This is The Boss Show with Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.


Motenko: Hi, welcome to The Boss Show, I’m Steve Motenko. I am the Psychology Guy here. I’m a Harvard educated leadership coach in the Puget Sound area, co-author along with my friend across the table who is the lead author of the book Land on Your Feet, Not on Your Face.


Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler. I’m the business guy. Puget Sound, named after Peter Puget the First Mate of Mr. Vancouver’s sailing ship back in the 1700s in case you’re interested.


Motenko: This is the kind of arcane trivia …


Hessler: Useless knowledge that I’m full of. I’m the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development. Glad to be with you on the show, the show for anyone who is or has a boss. Steve, we like our listeners to know that we have a wonderful thirteen month development program called the Path Forward Leadership Workshop.


Today we’re going to talk about one of the concepts, what we call one of the planks out of that Leadership Platform model that we’ve developed. It’s called The Boot and The Sandal. On the surface it’s kind of about time management, but it’s really more, I would say, about our relationship with time and how we see what time is, from a leadership perspective. The subtitle of the plank is, “My intentions are the intentions of a leader, and I spend my time accordingly.” We want to talk today about how leaders spend their time.


Motenko: Yeah, it’s not only about how we perceive time, but it’s also about, obviously, strategy, a strategic versus a tactical approach. A long term versus a short term approach. What makes it so challenging for leaders or for any of us, and of course any of us is a leader if we have any influence on any other human, is that we’re kind of biologically programmed toward focusing on the short term, focusing on the threats and opportunities that are right in front of us.


Hessler: Let me build on that, because there’s three things I’ve come across very recently that oriented me toward wanting to talk about this on The Boss Show. They’re all things I read in the news. Let me just start out with the first one. There’s a woman who wrote an article in the New York Times Magazine, and it’s called The Lies Busy People Tell Themselves.


Motenko: That’s a great title


Hessler: What she did is she studies time management and she’s a consultant, but what she has done for herself and had others do, hundreds of people do, is do a very rigorous diary or logging of their activities for a year.


Motenko: Oh, my God! If somebody asked me to do that I would say, “No way!”


Hessler: Yeah, over 8,000 hours or something of time that has to be accounted for.


Motenko: How much time do you spend doing the log? It’s challenging.


Hessler: I don’t know about that. The primary finding out of this was that of all these hundreds of people, they actually had more time than they thought they did, and that people routinely significantly overestimate the amount of time they spend working. I thought this was really, really interesting.


Motenko: Wait, the amount of time they spend working?


Hessler: For example, if I ask you how much time do you put in in a week, and you said 75 hours, on average those people were overestimating that by 25 hours. The actual amount of time they were actually working was closer to 50 rather than 75.


Motenko: The rest of the time when they think they’re working they’re doing what?


Hessler: They’re doing other things. This goes back to one of the central premises of the Plank 4, the Boot and Sandal plank in our Leadership Platform model, which is that we like to be busy. We like to talk about being busy. The example we use in our workshop is if you go to a cocktail party on a Friday night and you ask everybody how they’re doing, the stock response is, “Oh, I’m so busy. I’m so busy.” Not only do we want to be busy so we can tell this kind of dramatic story about how busy we are, but that causes us to actually inflate in our own minds the amount of time we actually spend working. Most people actually don’t work as much time as they say they do. I found that really fascinating.


Motenko: I’ve taken to eliminating the word busy from my lexicon when talking about myself because it puts us into victim mode.


Hessler: It does. When we get back, there’s a couple of other examples from the news that I wanted to talk about, because this whole idea of our relationship with time, and how we see this concept of being busy, and how stressed we are, it’s something we really need to think about in more depth.


More on the Boot and the Sandal concept. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Speaker 1: It’s a Northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. The Boss Show continues.


Hessler: Hi, I’m Jim Hessler, I’m the business guy.


Motenko: Welcome back to The Boss Show, I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy. If you’ve got an idea for a Boss Show episode or if you just want to rant at us about what we’ve said or talked about on the show, we’d love to hear from you. A couple ways to reach us. There are a lot, actually, Facebook, Twitter, our website, but the most direct way, maybe, is our listener comment line at 206-973-7377. Again, 206-973-7377, and then finally our email address, talk to us at


Hessler: Today we’re talking about how busy we are, we’re talking about a concept that we created in our Leadership Platform model that we use with our clients called the boot and the sandal. We’ll get to that in a second and talk about what that means, and some of the things you can do to have a better relationship with time.


I mentioned there were three things that I saw in the news that caught my eye and said, boy, we need to talk about this on The Boss Show. The first was, as we talked about before the break, how most people actually over estimate the time they actually spend working, and that there’s more spaciousness in our lives than we realize if we really stop and think about what’s going on.


The second thing I noticed was a brief article about a company in Sweden that now has a six hour work day and has found that they’re producing more than they ever produced in eight hour work day.


Motenko: Wow! Everybody shaved off twenty-five percent of the time that they spent at work …


Hessler: And they’re getting more work done.


Motenko: Wow. I’ve heard this in similar forms from other sources.


Hessler: The thought experiment I like to ask people to do in our workshop is to ask them about the last day before they go on vacation, and how typically what a productive day that is. I ask them to imagine you approached every day as if you were going to go on vacation tomorrow.


Motenko: That productivity is partially obviously a result of the deadline pressure, “I’m leaving tomorrow,” but also partially, I would bet, a result of the really positive energy that you have when you know you’re going on vacation tomorrow.


Hessler: When you’re focused on what you need to get done rather than how much time you’re going to put in to get it done. You and I are both self-employed essentially, and one of the things I’ve told people changed the most for me is I stopped thinking about how much time I spent on the job, and I started thinking about what I actually got accomplished. That’s a huge difference, that’s a huge difference. I think when we take a time-centric view of our job, “How much time do I work?” We become less productive because we’re totaling up hours, we’re watching the clock.


Motenko: There’s no motivation in it. It kind of becomes a grind.


Hessler: Right. We also have employers checking the parking lot at the end of the night to see who’s still in the office and who’s left, so our employers are often focused on how much time we actually spend, way more than they should be.


Motenko: Not a management technique we would recommend.


Hessler: But it’s still very common. The other thing that we’ve discovered in our talking about gender is there’s often a negative perception of women who are caretakers to go home and take care of their children, who put in a solid eight hour day, get a lot more done than the guy next to them who puts in twelve hours, but it’s not tallied up that way. It’s just tallied up in how much time they spend.


Motenko: And then they go home and take care of their children, which is also work, hello? That’s another episode.


Hessler: The third thing I read recently is actually a book that I really recommend, it’s called The Shallows. It’s by a guy named Nicholas Carr, C-A-R-R. What Nicholas Carr talks about in his book is how technology is playing into this whole equation of how our minds work. In a sense it’s about our relationship with time. When we’re on the internet, when we’re on email, we are dealing with things in a more shallow way. We can process a broader range of information. We can do a little bit more of what’s called multitasking, but it’s at the expense of deep reading. They’re finding, for example, if you read a blog with link embedded in it, you retain far less about that blog than if you read the blog without links on a piece of paper.


Motenko: Because you follow the links? I don’t get it.


Hessler: Yeah, because it’s distracting. There’s three things going on here. We don’t work as much as we think we do. If we worked more productively we wouldn’t have to work so much, and also technology’s driving us into this very distracted mode where we’re not as productive as we could be because we’re trying to do too many different things at one time.


This all feeds into what we call the boot and sandal, and we’re going to talk to you about some of our tricks and tools for getting more out of your time when we come back. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Speaker 1: Now back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is The Boss Show on KOMO News.


Motenko: Welcome back, I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy.


Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler, I’m the business guy. Today we’re talking about something we call the boot and the sandal, which is a concept from our Leadership Platform and the basis of our thirteen month leadership development workshop that we do in our firm. Steve, why don’t you give an overview on boot and sandal. What do we mean by that?


Motenko: First of all, there are twelve “planks” in our leadership platform. Each is the subject of a month long reflection and dialogue process, as well as practice on real workplace challenges in the context of our year long Path Forward Leadership Workshop.


The boot and sandal piece, which is really about balancing thought and action, especially since most of us are so predisposed toward action. The boot and sandal piece is part of the first third of our platform, which is about leadership of self. If you’re leading yourself and you truly want to be a leader, you have to spend some time thinking. You have to spend some time planning, evaluating. You have to spend some time building capacity, not just getting stuff done. Building capacity can also look like relationship building, or communicating, which isn’t exactly getting stuff done often, and often can feel like a waste of time. It truly isn’t because it makes everything else better.


The visual metaphor that Jim came up with, and he came up with a visual metaphor for all of the plank concepts, but the one that sticks the most in all our participant’s minds, our leadership workshop participants, in this notion of boot and sandal, it’s so pervasive. The boot being reflective of active work, of getting it done, the tactical stuff. I’m wearing my boots, I’m in the trenches, I’m shoveling the dirt, whatever I’m doing. I’m in the dirt.


Hessler: Very tangible, very concrete, very visible work. You can see it getting done, almost.


Motenko: The sandal, on the other hand, kind of goes back to the notion of the Greek philosopher who is constructing society in the image of a vision that can only be constructed with significant thought, and reflection, and introspection, and assessment of culture and that sort of thing. What we say is you’ve got to put on your sandals and you’ve got to take a step back and look at the strategic if you truly want to be a leader worth following.


Hessler: Well said. Again, that sub title that we talked about earlier, my intentions are the intentions of a leader, and I spend my time accordingly. I came up with the concept originally, but you’re just a lot more articulate about it than I am, so thank you for that Steve, that was great.


There’s reasons why we want to put on the boots and not the sandals. There’s reasons why we are attracted to the boot work, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that we get an immediate return for it. It’s kind of a short term dopamine thing. It feels good to take something off the stack and see the stack get smaller.


Motenko: That’s such a powerful motivation. Again, as a psychology guy, we’re hard wired for that. We’re hard wired to pay attention to immediate gratification.


Hessler: I think we’ll have a chance to talk about it a little bit more. Boot work is also visible to the rest of the organization as well, it’s seen as work whereas in many organizations the sandal work, the reflective work, is not even classified as work. It’s classified as something that you do instead of work.


Motenko: The boot work is what we got promoted for.


Hessler: In many cases that’s true. There’s all kinds of reasons why we’re pulled to the boot, why we want to strap those boots on. We’ll explore more and more of those reasons when we get back, and some of the things you might be able to do to get yourself into a more healthy sandal mode. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Speaker 1: KOMO News. The Boss Show is back on the Northwest lifestyle weekend. Here’s Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko.


Motenko: Welcome back to The Boss Show, I’m Steve Motenko. I’m the psychology guy.


Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler, the business guy. We’re talking today about one of the planks of our leadership platform that we’ve developed with Path Forward. It’s called the boot and sandal, and it’s called Balance Thought and Action.


We talked about how we like to be busy and we like to be not only busy, but busy in ways that are tangible, that are concrete, that we refer to as boot activities. The sandal activities, on the other hand, are activities that are focused over the long term. They’re focused over the horizon, they’re change oriented thoughts. They’re deep reflections on your leadership, they’re deep reflections on the culture of your organization, on the strategy of your organization.


Motenko: Your own self development.


Hessler: Your own self development. Our experience is that some leaders spend almost no time in sandal mode, almost none.


Motenko: Some cultures support that, which is crazy. Such a disfunctionally short term focus.


Hessler: I think the first question is, what could change for you? What would be possible if you were a more reflective leader? Steve, why don’t you weigh in on that. If we have a leader who’s reflective and spends time really thinking about things, how does that person show up in a different and better way than somebody who’s just got their boots on all the time?


Motenko: A number of things come to mind. One is they prioritize relationship building, because if all you’re focused on is getting the job done, getting it done immediately, even if it’s about getting it done with quality, then you kind of don’t care who you step on in the process. You don’t see that healthy relationships are absolutely foundational for productivity or success, however you want to define it.


Hessler: This might be a person who considers relationship building to be a distraction from the real work.


Motenko: Right, it’s just schmoozing, it’s just social time.


Hessler: Right, it’s politics. We find ourselves disabusing our clients of this question all the time. The amount of time you spend investing in relationships may not look, in the moment, like a productive activity, but over the long term it’s an incredibly productive activity. It changes the culture, it changes the person’s engagement level with the work. It increases your ability to overcome conflicts and work together in a more collaborative fashion.


This is the perfect example. Going out to lunch and taking a long lunch with somebody, and having a real conversation about your working relationship. To some people that’s going to feel like, “Oh God, do I really have to do that? Can’t I just do the work? Do we have to really deal with all these relationship issues?” The fact is, yes, you do. It’s the most important work that you do in many respects, and yet it’s not necessarily valued. It’s also more difficult.


This is the other main concept, I think, about boot and sandal that we want to make sure that we talk about. Even though the boot work may look very active and it may, in a sense, be in a shallow way intellectually hard work, or it may even be physically hard work. The harder work is the self reflective, the strategic, the creative. That’s really hard, it takes a lot of oxygen in your brain to do that sort of work.


Motenko: It takes a lot of oxygen in your brain and it puts you on a learning curve such that you’re not coming from a place of already knowing. It’s easy to come from a place of already knowing, or expertise. That’s the easy work. It feels good and it’s easy. The harder stuff is learning new things. Sandal work, by its nature, is always about learning new things, whether it’s developing new relationships, whether it’s researching and studying trends in your particular workplace so that you can understand better how to adapt, it’s learning new things and that’s challenging.


Hessler: It’s why people can sit in a classroom, for example, and not do anything physically all day long and feel exhausted at the end of the day, because this little three and a half pound organ in between your ears is consuming, I’ve heard, up to a third of the oxygen and energy in your body when you’re learning something new, when you’re forming these new synapses.


This is what the boot work is about. It’s about forming new synapses …


Motenko: The sandal work.


Hessler: I’m sorry, this is what the sandal work is about, is creating new ways of thinking, new passages in your brain that allow you to look at the same thing in a different way from somebody else, which is really an essential way, in many ways, of describing leadership. This person who’s out ahead of other people and thinking more creatively and analytically about the future.


More about the boot and sandal when we return. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Speaker 1: It’s a Northwest lifestyle weekend on KOMO News. The Boss Show continues.


Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler, I’m the business guy.


Motenko: And I’m Steve Motenko, I’m the psychology guy, and we’re talking about this concept of balancing thought and action. As a leader you’ve got to take time to think, or as we call it in our model, sandal work. Evoking the Greek philosophers as opposed to the boot work, which is about just getting it done.


One thing that occurred to me we haven’t said, Jim, is that the demands on us to be flexible and adaptive are increasing as the pace of change increases.


Hessler: Yes, agreed.


Motenko: Us individually and us as organizations. If your head is down, and your blinders are on, and you’re getting the work done twenty-four seven, then with your boots strapped securely on, you miss the opportunity to notice what’s changing around you. That has to be a diligent endeavor, to notice what’s changing around you. That’s all sandal work.


Hessler: This is what we need our leaders to do. We need our leaders to do. We need our leaders to call us to the future. We need our leaders to help us imagine that future and they can’t do that if they’re not thinking.


Real quickly, a couple of things that we found really, really help with getting those sandals on and becoming a more deep thinking leader. Number one, you’ve really got to manage your calendar well. I guess the primary thing I’d like to say about that is you’ve got to schedule time for this thinking. It’s got to be on your calendar. So often we hear, “I’ll get to that when this task is over or this particular project is done, then I’ll do the analysis work.” You’ve got to be doing it all the time.


Motenko: As an executive coach I’m constantly suggesting to my clients that they diligently practice this by carving out time in their calendar, even for a short period of time as an experiment. Half an hour a day, or two hours a week, or whatever works in their schedule to get, if they can, away from the office. Maybe they do it at home, in a coffee house before they show up, but to carve out that time for that sandal time, that planning, reflective time.


Hessler: What we found, if you’re worried about what other people will think of you doing that, form agreements with them and communicate your intentions in that time to the people that work with you so they can support you having that time to think. If you need to disappear from your office, or even work from home, or take a long walk, everybody knows why you’re doing that and they feel supportive of what it is you’re trying to think through.


Motenko: Sell the importance of it.


Hessler: Sell the importance of it. This is what’s in it for you if you can help me get this time. The other thing I like to talk about a lot, and it really sunk home with me when I began the first draft of our book Land on Your Feet Not on Your Face. You’ve got to take big stuff and make it small, because our orientation is to want to try to get a task done. I think you can actually take your sandal work and make it look like boot work if you divide it into really tiny chunks. I always say I never had a to-do list item on my to-do list that said write a book. That was a category or a project of a collection of activities. I would give myself credit and check boxes as I did each and every little step on the road to writing that book.


Motenko: It’s a little mental trick, but it works.


Hessler: Yeah, take big stuff and make it small. The other thing is you’ve just got to delegate. You’ve got to get the things off your desk that allow you to work on the high value stuff. Another fairly harsh thing to say is if you’re doing work that somebody who gets paid a lot less money than you could do just as well, you probably shouldn’t be doing that work, and you should be thinking about doing higher value activities.


Motenko: That’s part of this general idea critically important for all leaders, of prioritization.


Hessler: It’s hard to put those sandals on, there’s some resistance that you have, there’s some discomfort that people feel when they really enter into this world of being a thinking manager. Yet, it makes a huge difference to your business if you can get ahead of concepts, if you can be strategic, it just makes you a better leader.


More on that when we come back. You’re listening to The Boss Show.


Speaker 1: Now back to Jim Hessler and Steve Motenko. This is The Boss Show on KOMO News.


Motenko: Welcome back, I’m Steve Motenko, I’m the psychology guy.


Hessler: I’m Jim Hessler, the business guy. We have tried to avoid using our radio program as a platform to sell our book …


Motenko: As an infomercial.


Hessler: As an infomercial fr our book, but we really would like to recommend that you buy our book Land on Your Feet Not on Your Face. It talks about this boot and sandal concept in a lot more detail than we can talk about in the confines of this show. It would make a big difference to you to be a thinking leader rather than just a boot guy.


Motenko: Another way to say it is your career is limited if all you’re involved in is boot work, if you resist the sandal work, the thinking work, the planning work, the studying work …


Hessler: The creative.


Motenko: The creative work, the relationship building work, your career has a ceiling on it. Self-imposed ceiling.


Hessler: It does. When you get into this sandal mode there’s a lot of satisfaction, a lot of engagement, and a lot of fun that can come from being a thinking manager rather than just a doing manager.


Motenko: The Boss Show is produced by Boss Media Productions. Our sound engineer is Kevin Doddrell.


Hessler: If you missed any of this show you can get it in its entirety online at, and you can go there to subscribe to the podcast or to contact us for any reason at all.


Motenko: Including bringing us, our coaching services, our leadership development services into your workplace.


Hessler: Thank you for listening.


Motenko: And don’t forget rule number six.


Hessler: Rule number six.



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